Did You Know? Three Surprising Facts About Premature Birth

Did You Know? Three Surprising Facts About Premature Birth

Categories: Breastfeeding Today

By Karen Williamson, BT Managing Editor

According to the World Health Organization,1 “Common causes of preterm birth include multiple pregnancies, infections and chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure; however, often no cause is identified.” Their website is brimming with premature birth statistics. Did you know these facts?

  1. Across 184 countries, the rate of preterm birth ranges from 5% to 18% of babies born.
  2. Preterm is defined as babies born alive before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed.

In addition, there are sub-categories of preterm birth, based on gestational age:

  1. Worldwide, Malawi (a landlocked country in southeastern Africa) is the country with the highest rate of preterm birth per 100 live births.

Here’s a rundown of the top 10 countries with the highest rates of preterm birth per 100 live births2:

  • Malawi: 18.1 preterm births per 100 births
  • Comoros: 16.7
  • Congo: 16.7
  • Zimbabwe: 16.6
  • Equatorial Guinea: 16.5
  • Mozambique: 16.4
  • Gabon: 16.3
  • Pakistan: 15.8
  • Indonesia: 15.5
  • Mauritania: 15.4

In the spirit of World Prematurity Day (celebrated November 17), consider doing something to honor the parent of a premature baby. Bring over a homemade (or even a takeout) meal, or send a “You’re doing an amazing job!” text message. Your gesture will mean so much! Also, be sure to check out highlights from World Prematurity Day across the globe by visiting facebook.com/WorldPrematurityDay.


  1. World Health Organization, Preterm birth, 19 Februrary 2018, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/preterm-birth (accessed 25 September 2019)
  2. Blencowe H, Cousens S, Oestergaard M, Chou D, Moller AB, Narwal R, Adler A, Garcia CV, Rohde S, Say L, Lawn JE. National, regional and worldwide estimates of preterm birth. The Lancet, June 2012. 9;379(9832):2162-72. Estimates from 2010.